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In This Issue:
The third in a series of articles that highlights emerging clinical leaders at BWH.
From performing surgery, to singing with a local choral group in Boston, to studying gynecologic cancer, Dr. Elizabeth Garner is truly a renaissance woman. BWH Bulletin recently caught up with the newest addition to the hospital’s gynecologic oncology team. Garner’s dream of becoming an opera singer was overpowered by her stronger desire to practice medicine. As a native of Nigeria, Garner was drawn early on to help solve the health care disparities in third world countries and in underserved populations. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Music from Mount Holyoke College, Garner pursued both a medical degree and master’s degree in Public Health concurrently at Harvard Medical School (HMS). She began her first year of residency with an initial interest and focus in internal medicine. Garner’s original plan was to go into primary care, but after getting a taste for many aspects of medicine and surgery, she gravitated toward women’s health and surgery. With such a shift, she decided to pursue a concentration in obstetrics and gynecology and ultimately chose to specialize in gynecologic oncology. Following her residency at BWH, Garner began a three-year fellowship program in gynecologic oncology at the hospital. “The first year of the fellowship was all research in a lab setting, while the last two years were mainly clinical,” said Garner, explaining that she took care of hundreds of women with gynecologic cancers and participated in more than 600 surgeries during that time. Having just completed her fellowship at BWH this past June, Garner joined the hospital as one of only five gynecologic oncologists on staff, dividing her time equally between the bedside and the lab. “Dr. Garner is the perfect example of the gynecological clinician-scientist,” said Robert Barbieri, MD, chair, BWH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “She is beloved by her patients and a trusted consultant to all physicians in the Department. We are so proud to have her as a member of the BWH family.”
Garner is currently conducting two separate research projects—one in ovarian cancer and a smaller project in cervical cancer disparities research. Garner’s ovarian cancer research project is supported by a four-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellowship and involves studying the genetic changes that occur in the ovary as women develop ovarian cancer. Her cervical cancer research project is funded through a two-year HMS Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities fellowship. Garner also maintains research support from the BWH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and the BWH Minority Career Development award. Describing her dual role as a clinician and a researcher as a “delicate balance,” Garner attributes much of her success thus far to the outstanding training and many role models she has experienced at BWH. She also points to the loving support of her husband and two children as being invaluable to her career development. “My fellowship at BWH resulted in so much more than I ever thought possible. This institution really presents an academic culture, pushing excellence throughout both clinical and research endeavors,” said Garner. “Here I am, just two months into being an attending physician, and I have already experienced many complicated surgeries and challenging clinical situations, and am thrilled about getting back into the lab. I have an incredible sense of gratitude for my fellowship mentors, including Drs. Ross Berkowitz, Donald Goldstein, Mike Muto, Ellen Sheets, Sam Mok, Sarah Feldman, and countless other equally influential people, who trained me here at BWH and prepared me for this wonderful career.”